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Sovanna Baitong

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Sovanna Baitong

Brimful of water, the tank placed high
On wooden posts unlooses its load.
Water whooshing down on the blades
Of grass and shrubs- clear silver gleaming
In the four o’clock afternoon sun
Against leaves of fruit trees.

There’s the hum of cicadas hanging in the air,
A tantalizing drone of an impending rapture;
Farmers on the field plough and hoe the soil
For new rows of crops, the weather this time
Predictably favorable, wedged between
Extremes of rain and heat.

Later as fruits quietly bud in the glow of dark,
Chickens and birds roost on the branches,
The villagers, after a meal of simple dish-
Could be raw vegetables and prahoc
Will turn into fitful sleep, their bodies
Will be drained of harshness, their songs
Configuring harmony to leap into a new day
Like the fish in the lake of Baeng Meas.

*prahoc –is a popular Cambodian fish paste

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October Lite

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October Lite
(for Maros)

Many years later I still get a glimpse
of that thing you threw
off Sotheros Road, riding behind a motodop,
a post-mortem of the morning after…
That which was wrapped tight in paper,
balled as your signature guts,
chucked on a gutter or grassland
like some detritus of a conquest.
The road has long removed
any of this kind of memento;
The moloch of commerce has gone
big time around here
with more edifices and orifices
in a sprawl of greed and lust.
Whatever, you had your share then.
Your absence now in Phnom Penh
doesn’t really hold for any length
of time. All that was spent, those days
and nights, desire and hex, will never be undone.

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What I Know of This Living

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What I Know of This Living

1.
From bed every waking day as my feet touch
The tiled floor cold and clean like the tea cup
I have washed from use the night before,
The morning is always poised on giving me slices of life
Off the window frames: mostly the mood of the sky,
The shimmer of yellow and orange roof tiles
Of the pagodas, the solitude of stupas,
Monks filing past the columns as pigeons
Swoop in a blur, skyscrapers impassive
In the distance. No matter what,
I have them, my plants on pots
Of cool shapes giving cheers in the burst
Of buds and flowers, the tiny lone fish
In a square vessel nodding in triumph
To the both of us for discerning well
Another day on the edge.

2.
There it lands at my feet on the floor,
A small butterfly, brown
As the wooden chair I’m sitting on.
With my swollen red eyes blighted by infection,
I look at it and consider its deeper intimation.
Since there never was a stray or visit
Of its kind in my home up here in the tenement,
In a foreign city I have come to endure
Like wisps of sadness, I presume
This butterfly bears a familiar spirit.
Look, its stays on its feet with nary a movement,
A breath away into my right toes.
In the ensuing stillness, as we regard each other
Without need for words,
A kind of warmth courses through me,
Exhilaration even at the thought that, yes,
It must be somebody so dear just departed.

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Wednesday Trance

Desert mirage
Wednesday Trance

I’m trying to come up with something today,
Pushing hard like hallucinogen thrashing my brain,
Losing to trance, Dash Berlin;
Afloat on a lake of words facing grave infinity.
It’s a day that runs forward and backward on end
As constant wars everywhere
Send humanity escaping across the desert,
To boundaries of nations and doors of mercy.
There is no end. Suffering is a humdrum affair.
Hatred and prejudice the horned avatars of ruin.
The world just ripples through book pages,
Leaves glinting at the sun, murmurs of the hearts.

Yet, the hours will remain incandescent, blistering
To the hilt. If everything else goes, why, memories persist;
They live within the tiniest grit of stone and complexities
Of stars. Like I will not be carrying forever
In my mind the passage of a storm against the glass window
Of a hospital room, how the gust of wind bends
The trees almost to the ground on a dark cold morning,
My father wracked with pain and fading away in his bed.
My gut tells me I will recover this moment somewhere,
My deep-rooted dreams of finding home,
And maybe, a prayed-for-maybe, that I’ll run
Into my father in a mirage, our smiles and longing
Melting as we hug each other upon instant recognition.

15-16 October 2014
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Another repost from my Facebook timeline of 27 August 2014 that I couldn’t miss out on due the obvious reason of my puny attempt to recover some memories of my recently departed father…

Today is the 40th day death anniversary of my father and this involves another point of departure- final and immutable- to where he finds everlasting peace. Some months ago before he left for good, my father asked me to go on a road trip with him to Bicol. He planned to take me to parts of Sorsogon where I have never been before and we would visit our idyllic hometown, Sta. Magdalena, and survey his small coconut plantation on a hill. On my part I had been meaning to take him… to Cambodia for a change of sceneries and make him finally be in the land of the late King Sihanouk (whose political life he remembered well), the grandeur of Angkor temples, and harsh memories of Khmer Rouge. Sadly, these two life-changing trips did not happen.

I mark this day with a poem for my dear father, the last one I wrote for him when I was on my way home (4th of July) to be by his side at the hospital, hoping that he would recover and finally realize our wishes and plans.

En route to Father

An hour past Bangkok, the flight meal served,
I drink the coffee and stare at the coastline
Of Vietnam as we inch into the ocean.
The plane skirts the dark mass of clouds;
It goes smoothly into the blue,
Like a sensible act of keeping away
From a zone of fear
Or being cast with malediction.
As I stay airborne,
I drift between dread and hope.
But the quiet in the plane throbs
Like a prayer held inside a cathedral.
God, please look after my father.
Make him well from whatever
That afflicts him, allow him more years
To live amid the little happenings
In our lives, eat his small foods,
Soak up earth, beach, and sky
Of Sta. Magdalena,
Where his primal breath and roots sprang;
And perhaps this time the journey
To Cambodia whose history and politics
Will charm his curious mind.

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En route To Father

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En route to Father

An hour past Bangkok, the flight meal served,
I drink the coffee and stare at the coastline
Of Vietnam as we inch into the ocean.
The plane skirts the dark mass of clouds;
It goes smoothly into the blue,
Like a sensible act of keeping away
From a zone of fear
Or being cast with malediction.
As I stay airborne,
I drift between dread and hope.
But the quiet in the plane throbs
Like a prayer held inside a cathedral.
God, please look after my father.
Make him well from whatever
That afflicts him, allow him more years
To live amid the little happenings
In our lives, eat his small foods,
Soak up earth, beach, and sky
Of Sta. Magdalena,
Where his primal breath and roots sprang;
And perhaps this time the journey
To Cambodia whose history and politics
Will charm his curious mind.

04 July 20014/3:47 pm –
14 August 2014